It's not every day when someone wins a Nobel Prize for Chemistry, and when meeting the press to talk about it, they get off a political joke. Actually, other than my friend Dr. Greg Van Buskirk, I'm not aware of any chemist who makes jokes at any time, period. Though I suspect there are a few. (Though not up to Dr. Buzz's level...) But at your Nobel Prize coming-out party? Just not your every day occurrence.
When the Nobel Prize-winner is a professor at the beloved Northwestern University, it's all the better. And deserving of getting written about here. The good fellow's name is Dr. Fraser Stoddart. (Born in Scotland, for those keeping a scorecard. Though a resident of the U.S. for the past 20 years.)
Okay, it's not a particularly good joke -- certainly not up to the Van Buskirk Standard for Chemists -- but when it comes to chemists and humor, you takes what you can get. And in fairness, it's more a jab than a joke.
Anyway, the winner of the Nobel Prize, in addition to getting a very nice medal and certificate and place in history, receives an award of approximately $933,000. The eminent Professor Stoddart (from Northwestern, did I mention that?) will share this amount with the two other equally-eminent chemists on his team. When asked about this vast sum of money, Nobel Prize-winner Stoddart said --
"I am not very smart. The IRS will run off with a third of it." And then, just to make sure that those in attendance got that he was making a dig at Donald Trump, added -- "Did you all get that? I'm not very smart," which news reports said brought about laughter and applause.
Okay, most stand-up comics don't tend to double-check with the audience that they got the point of their jokes. But then, most stand-ups don't develop the world's smallest molecular machines which have the potential to be used for the treatment of cancer, as well as in robotics and prosethetics.
For the record, again to add to your scorecard, the other two chemistry recipients were Jean-Pierre Sauvage of France and Bernard Feringa of the Netherlands. There is no report of them making political jokes at the event, or jokes of any kind. Though there is a rumor that one of them said, "We leave that sort of thing to Dr. Van Buskirk, whose work in this area we admire greatly -- as well as his efforts in chemistry."
Booking agents are looking into the possibility of teaming up Dr. Stoddart and Dr. Van Buskirk in hopes of them hitting the road to perform in night clubs across the country. All the while, during the day, making the world better through science.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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